The Latest Rewriting of Human Evolution
Early Man Studies Are a Moving Target: a Perennial Re-writing of Our Alleged History
by Jerry Bergman, PhD
“New fossils, tools and analyses of genomes have thrown everything in disarray,” announced author Graham Lawton in the cover story in the latest issue of the British science magazine New Scientist. Once again, the latest rewrite of human evolution announces that we should forget all we once knew, because a “huge array of fossils and genome studies has completely rewritten the story of how we came into being,” yet again. It’s about the fourth time this has happened in the past year or so, I might add. Why does this keep happening? The story of human evolution is, as Mark Twain said a century ago, based on a few bone fragments and several buckets of plaster.
Having just completed the most detailed book-length review ever done by objective PhD outsiders of the peer-reviewed evidence for human evolution with my colleagues, I can say with confidence that Mark Twain’s sentiment over a century ago was correct. I could add the theory of human evolution is now based on more than a few bone fragments, but it is also based on even more just-so stories, as well as requiring a lot more faith than Mark Twain had.
Lawton added, “Forget the simple out-of-Africa idea of how humans evolved.” A new theory has evolved to take its place. The out-of-Africa view was the bedrock theory of human evolution taught in most all of the textbooks as established fact; at least all of the books that I used taught this view as fact when I was teaching biology at the college level. Thus, tossing this view represents another major revolution in human evolution studies.
One of the most honest statements that Lawton included in his New Scientist article was part of the opening address presented at a three-day conference on human evolution given by no less than world-renowned University of Cambridge paleoanthropologist Professor Robert Foley. Foley’s words were:
What I’m pretty sure of is that, by the end of the first day, something like 20 per cent of what I say will be wrong. By the end of the second day, something like 50 per cent will be wrong, and at the end of the conference, I’m hoping that something I said at the beginning still holds true.
This admission should be included in every college biology textbook. In teaching at the college level for 45 years I have never seen anything close to it, and would have remembered it if I had. The textbooks I taught from, without exception, presented the sections on human evolution dogmatically, exuding an aura of confidence in each and every claim made. Not a hint of the honesty expressed by Foley is included in the sections about the field of human evolution.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of high school and college students are exposed in the introduction to their biology classes to the dogma that human evolution is settled science. ‘All we have to do is fill in a few of the unimportant details,’ they are likely to add. Implying that evolutionists have close to a complete picture of where, when, why, and how human evolution occurred amounts to indoctrination, not education. Students are presented with an incomplete and inaccurate picture of evolution. As a result, students (as well as most life scientists), become convinced of the truth of evolution—some dogmatically so—based on fake science.
But more knowledge produces doubts. An in-depth knowledge from careful reading of both sides produces Darwin Doubters. That was my experience.
When selecting textbooks for use in my classes, I reviewed close to 40 biology textbooks. They all dogmatically presented only the pro-evolution side, not even hinting at the admission made by Professor Robert Foley. Jonathan Wells, in his detailed survey of the leading biology textbooks, came to the same conclusion I did about the biology textbooks. The book rated highest by Wells, Campbell Biology, was the one we selected (it had a rating of D+; 2 books were rated D- and the rest F). Nonetheless, the book we selected was likewise dogmatic, only not as extreme as the others we looked at. It mentioned not a hint of the many problems of evolution, especially human evolution. Reading this textbook would give students a very distorted view of the scientific case for evolution.
The Out of Africa Theory
In paleoanthropology, the recent African origin of modern humans, called the “Out of Africa” theory (OOA), until a few months ago, was the dominant model of the geographic origin and early migration of anatomically modern humans. Specifically, genetic evidence was presented to infer that a “small band with the [genetic] marker M168 migrated out of Africa along the coasts of the Arabian Peninsula and India, through Indonesia, and reached Australia very early, between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago.”
The “Out of Africa” theory in turn replaced an older view, the multiregional origin of modern humans theory, initially proposed by University of Michigan Professor Milford Wolpoff in the 1980s. The multiregional theory postulated a wave of modern man precursors, Homo sapiens migrating not much earlier than 100,000 years ago from Africa. As they migrated out of Africa they interbred with local Homo erectus and other populations in various regions of the Earth. Thus, according to this theory, we are mongrels containing a variety of genes from very diverse human and pre-human populations. The theory was popular from 1984 to 2003 and was largely replaced by the Out of Africa Theory. Lawton writes, until
recently, the story of our origins was thought to be settled: Homo sapiens evolved in eastern Africa about 150,000 years ago, became capable of modern behavior some 60,000 years ago and then swept out of Africa to colonize the world, completely replacing any archaic humans they encountered.
Now, the theory that had replaced the multiregional theory, the Out of Africa theory, has been challenged by a new theory, called the “recent out-of-Africa package” which, Lawton adds on page 34 of the above reference is the
idea that modern humans appeared quiteed abruptly in eastern or southern Africa sometime between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago and went on to conquer the world. The package also introduced the distinction between anatomical and behavioral modernity. Based on archaeological evidence, it looked as though early Homo sapiens had bodies like us but weren’t as advanced mentally. Only later, about 50,000 or 60,000 years ago, did the full package evolve – perhaps due to a chance mutation – making dispersal out of Africa possible.
So, the claim is a chance mutation caused ape minds to evolve into our modern minds. This claim ignores the chasm between the behavior of chimps and modern humans. Ignoring this problem, one factor that motivated the “recent out-of-Africa package” was the following research:
A team of geneticists at the University of California, Berkeley, sequenced 147 mitochondrial genomes from living people around the world. The mitochondria in cells are inherited from mothers only, and the study indicated that everyone was descended from a single woman – dubbed “mitochondrial Eve” – who probably lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago.
This finding sounds uncomfortably like the Biblical story. Consequently, some evolutionists tried to distance themselves from the finding, or at least rationalized the results. Nonetheless, the discovery of “mitochondrial Eve” forced researchers to re-evaluate their old theory. As Foley concluded, the result of the mitochondrial Eve theory was very influential. It was quickly consolidated into what he calls the “recent out-of-Africa package”, the idea that modern humans appeared quite abruptly in eastern or southern Africa, sometime between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago, and went on to conquer the world.
New research has further discredited the old Out-of-Africa theory. What specifically caused the latest revolution? Lawton concludes that more research on
new fossils, tools and analyses of ancient and modern genomes are tearing apart that neat tale. The Jebel Irhoud skull has turned out to be a key to a new, slowly emerging paradigm. With the dust yet fully to settle, the question now is how many, if any, of our old assumptions still hold. “Should we be thinking of a completely different model?” asks Foley. “Abandoning out-of-Africa?”
Of course, not every paleontologist is convinced, for good reason. The “out-of-Africa” paradigm to which Foley refers “has become so entrenched that” changing minds will not be easy, Lawton intimates. The new theory Foley proposes has the support of fossil evidence which “obligingly supported” this story. Although remains from the crucial time of about 150,000 Darwin years ago were absent, there were several older human skulls that seemed to “fit the idea” that from Africa spread the first humans without mixing genetically with other very different people groups, such as the Neanderthals. Instead, Homo sapiens, through a hypothetical massive genocide, wiped out the other people groups, thus supporting the findings of mtDNA research. Each new theory has its own supporters. There are groups who still appeal to evidence that they think supports the multiregional theory and the Out of Africa theory.
Another Important Find
In 1997, paleontologists in Ethiopia’s Afar depression area of Africa unearthed three human skulls, the Herto hominins dated between 154,000 and 160,000 Darwin years old. These skulls have a
mixture of archaic and modern facial and cranial features. They were found associated with tools that had elements of both old and new Stone Age technology. The hominins’ age, location and toolkit were neatly in tune with the recent out-of-Africa model and convinced the researchers that they were the “probable immediate ancestors of anatomically modern humans.” Done and dusted, you might think. But … Discoveries since then have been difficult, if not impossible, to slot into this neat little box. And the Jebel Irhoud fossils have done more than almost anything else to upend the old order.
Until recently, the Jebel Irhoud skull was thought to belong to a Neanderthal, but now careful research has “found more fossils, including another near-complete skull. It too had a modern face and ancient braincase. When the date [to determine its age] came back, it was astounding: 315,000 years old, plus or minus 34,000 years.”
If the reader is confused, especially with these dates which are all over the map, he or she is not alone. So are the paleontologists. The main problem is too little evidence, which in this case is like trying to figure out the picture of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle when you have only 23 pieces. But the paleontologists like to remind us that, about 50 years ago, we had only 8 pieces. Thus, as we find more pieces our view of what the picture looks like changes. This is their excuse for constantly revising their stories.
Toward Honesty in Education
As noted at the beginning of this paper, our textbooks rarely cover the short review here. Instead, they rather imply, or state outright, that we are only missing a few unimportant pieces of the puzzle. ‘We have the story down pat now,’ the textbooks imply, and therefore ‘we can explain the story that science has uncovered by the painstaking research during the 150 years after Darwin for which we have unambiguous evidence, and to question our evolution story proves you are ignorant.’ When I was teaching college I saw this problem over and over in the textbooks. They do not encourage grappling with controversial ideas but, instead, indoctrinate students in the current popular theory.
The science textbooks are misleading, at best, on the topic of evolution, but dishonest is actually a better description of the current situation. For example, to explain the findings that led to the mitochondrial Eve theory, Darwinists use a theory rescue device. They claim, ‘because we know Darwinism is true, the results require postulating a bottleneck in spite of the fact that no evidence exists of the catastrophe that supposedly caused this bottleneck.’
Evolutionists see the world through their evolution glasses. To understand the fossils, we must take the evolution lenses off that are creating constant confusion. Then, we can begin to see the world as it really is.
 Lawton, Graham. 2020. Human evolution: The astounding new story of the origin of our species. New Scientist. April 1, pp. 34-43. The online version is here: https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg24532760-800-human-evolution-the-astounding-new-story-of-the-origin-of-our-species/
 Bergman, Jerry, Peter Line, and Jeffrey Tomkins. 2020. Apes as Ancestors: Examining the Claims About Human Evolution. Tulsa, OK: Bartlett Publishing.
 Cameron, David W. and Colin P. Groves. 2004. Bones, Stones and Molecules: “Out of Africa” and Human Origins. New York, NY: Academic Press, Inc.
 Lawton, 2020, p.34. (Note the print edition made the mistake of using the date 2019 for only this article! The rest of the magazine is correctly dated 2020).
 Wells, Jonathan. 2002. Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution Is Wrong. Washington, D,C.: Regnery Publishing. (Illustrations by Jody F. Sjogren. See pages 249-258 for the ratings of the ten leading biology textbooks.)
 Reece, Jane B., et al. 2011. Campbell Biology: Concepts & Connections, 9th Edition. Boston, MA: Pearson Custom Publishing.
 McChesney, Kay Young. 2015. “Teaching Diversity: The Science You Need to Know to Explain Why Race Is Not Biological.” SAGE Journals/ SAGE Open, October-December. doi:10.1177/2158244015611712.
 Jurmain, Robert, Lynn Kilgore, Wenda Trevathan, 2008. Essentials of Physical Anthropology. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning, p. 266.
 Lawton, 2020, p. 34.
 Lawton, 2020, pp. 34-35.
 Lawton, 2020, p. 35.
 Lawton, 2020, p. 35.
 Lawton, 2020, p. 35.
 Lawton, 2020, p. 36.
 Lawton, 2020, p. 36.
Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology for over 40 years at several colleges and universities including Bowling Green State University, Medical College of Ohio where he was a research associate in experimental pathology, and The University of Toledo. He is a graduate of the Medical College of Ohio, Wayne State University in Detroit, the University of Toledo, and Bowling Green State University. He has over 1,300 publications in 12 languages and 40 books and monographs. His books and textbooks that include chapters that he authored are in over 1,500 college libraries in 27 countries. So far over 80,000 copies of the 40 books and monographs that he has authored or co-authored are in print. For more articles by Dr Bergman, see his Author Profile.